Witch Way To Hell: The Top 13 Witch Flicks

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"Men are such cocksuckers aren't they? You don't have to answer that. It's true. They're scared. Their dicks get limp when confronted by a woman of obvious power and what do they do about it? Call them witches, burn them, torture them, until every woman is afraid. Afraid of herself. Afraid of men. And all for what? Fear of losing their hard-on." -Daryl Van Horne, The Witches Of Eastwick

Witches have haunted the imagination for as long as any other of Satan's many minions in the annals of Horror.  These female magicians are assumed to have dealings with evil spirits and are able to perform various supernatural acts.  The simplified caricature usually boils down to that of a sharp nosed, black hat wearing, broom riding creature who seems rather fond of pumpkins and black cats.  History records religious zealots attempting to stamp them out during the Middle Ages and continuing into the 19th Century, although their existence was never proven.  Thousands of unfortunate women would lose their lives, families and property to the convoluted hysteria and it remains one of the darkest footnotes of the past.

Early cinema would adopt the common likeness, but as time wore on their charms could be found lurking not only behind the façade of old wrinkled hags; but also those of comely maidens, seductive sirens and all other manner of fleshly guises.  Like all belief systems, witchcraft is only as good or evil as the people using it; sometimes taken seriously and sometimes not.  And these films certainly reflect that.  Whatever you may believe, one can't argue that witches have held a fascination for eons and they will doubtlessly continue to weave their sin-o-matic charms.

But enough of the history lesson!  Grab your freshest eye of newt and toe of frog and join me over at the cauldron as I cast forth thirteen of the doomiest, broomiest, wickedest witch flicks to ever see full light of the moon. 

13. Virgin Witch (1971)  directed by Ray Austin Bring on the naked she-devils!  This soft-core romp through supernatural soirees is a dated piece of exploitation that delivers some grade A grade B.  Two sisters hoping for a modeling assignment are tempted by sinister forces.  Admittedly the plot here is nothing too revealing, but the same can't always be said of the cast.  All things considered, it's harmless and entertaining mischief.

12. Warlock (1989)  directed by Steve Miner Almost right off the batwing I'm gonna throw out a curve ball.  I failed to mention that men can be witches too, didn't I?  Julian Sands beguiles as an ancient witch thrown forward in time by Satan to gather pieces of a lost Grimoire.  More depth of character than you'd ever expect from such hokum.  A minor 80's gem.

11. The Craft (1996)  directed by Andrew Fleming Four young women experiment with witchcraft to disastrous results.  This well acted New Age coming-of-ager eventually boils down to an FX heavy spectacle lacking in imagination, but it still manages to be a well paced thrill ride worthy of making the list.  If a complaint can be made, it's that there are too many liberties taken with the practice and not enough with the plot, but adolescent angst has honestly never looked so spirited.

10.  Horror Hotel (1960)  directed by John L. Moxey This bit of British bedevilry focuses on the undead spirits of a witch and her coven who hope to sacrifice a chosen young college student.  Christopher Lee lends a heavy hand in bringing the menace in this moody and atmospheric shocker.  In black and white and structurally similar to Psycho, which was made the same year, but I think Mother would agree that the comparisons end there.

9. Mark Of The Devil (1970)  directed by Michael Armstrong An 18th century witch-hunter and his apprentice stalk the countryside looking to vanquish devil worship.  Innocent women are terrorized in the name of the Lord until the abuse of power becomes too much for the trainee to handle.  Horror heavies Lom, Kier and Nalder play their respective cards winningly and producer Hoven makes sure to show us all the explicit and illicit details.  Rated 'V' for violence, too, so you know it's a keeper.

8. Baba Yaga aka Kiss Me, Kill Me (1973)  directed by Corrado Farina This take on legendary folklore is a simmering pot of poison in the Giallo mold.  And there's always room for Giallo.  A fashion photographer must try to save her soul from a sorceress intent on possessing it.  Seems only the Italians can pull off this type of wonderfully disjointed and hallucinogenic hoodoo.  Strangely bewitching Euro-trash starring ex-Hollywood starlet Carroll Baker.

7. The Witchmaker (1969)  directed by William O. Brown Is there sex after death?  This inspired low budget shocker attempts to answer the question.  A research team heads to the Louisiana swamps to investigate the murders of young beautiful women.  An interesting story, assured direction, nice cinematography and a great locale all blend into one seriously eerie brew.  Here is a cult definitely worth joining.

6. Black Sunday (1960)  directed by Mario Bava A diabolical mixture of witchcraft and vampire lore seasons the pot of this gothic classic that introduced the world to Mario Bava and Barbara Steele.  Bava manipulates his best visual effect, Steele, to fashion one of the most striking films of the period.  The opening inquisition scene alone inspired countless knock-offs and its overall influence on the genre was monstrous.  Skip church and make a date with darkness.

5. Witchfinder General (1968)  directed by Michael Reeves The tranquil English countryside becomes a place of terror in this fictionalized account based on historical fact.  Vincent Price is dastardly as Matthew Hopkins, who falsely conducts himself as a government official sent to vanquish evil.  Instead he extorts women for sex, money and power.  Price is restrained and menacing, while young director Reeves shows a polish well beyond his years.  One of the more brutal films to materialize out of the ether.

4. Blood On Satan's Claw (1971)  directed by Piers Haggard A small English parish is taken over by Satanic influence when relics of a strange creature are found in a field.  Linda Hayden stars as an alluring young woman who disguises immorality with innocence, accuses a pastor of rape and forms a sacrificial cult to serve the dark one.  This Tigon Pictures release is thoughtfully composed and executed and stands out as one of the most effective shockers of the era.  It'll leave a mark.

3. The Devils (1971)  directed by Ken Russell The Devils is another historical dramatization, this time chronicling the witch trials and tribulations of a 17th Century priest being undermined by local politicians.  Oliver Reed is spellbinding as the hysteria mounts around him and chaos ensues.  The most psychologically compelling entry of the lot also manifests a wealth of frightening hallucinations, perversions and even some masturbating nuns.  I know I'm in heaven.

2. Suspiria (1977)  directed by Dario Argento Dario Argento's masterpiece follows a ballet student who begins to suspect that her dance academy is actually a witch's coven.  The nightmarish visual tapestry Argento constructs for the film is completely unsettling.  Rich colors, deep shadows, odd camera angles and some very sinister set-pieces all outweigh the superficial plot and cements Suspiria's deserved status as one of the best Italian Horrors ever made.

1. The Wicker Man (1973)  directed by Robin Hardy I might be causing a slight coup here, technically speaking, in choosing my top film, but it's my list and I'll do whatever the hell I want.  A staunchly religious police investigator combs a remote island searching for a missing girl the locals insist never existed.  This seamless thriller offers an arresting storyline, excellent performances, strong cinematography and one of the most memorable denouements to ever fire up the screen.  God-fearing folk will surely site any ancient Pagan rituals as witchcraft, so I think I'll make that sweeping assumption as well.

Well there you have it.  I've successfully invoked thirteen of my favorite witchy flicks for your careful consideration.  With Halloween right around the corner it seemed as an appropriate time as any.  So kindly spread the magic of discussion over in the forum on these or any other films of the ilk you find enchanting.  It would really please the master.

Footnote: Also don't miss the 1922 Danish film Haxan, which is an accurate account of the history of witchcraft through the ages.  Hence it's alternative title.  Director Benjamin Christensen's pseudo-documentary is a feast for the eyes and one of the crowning achievements of the silent era.

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